My release date for my upcoming novel, “The Treemakers,” was originally set for this July. As you can see, that date has flown by and here I sit, awaiting still that righteous day when I hit that big, red “PUBLISH” button. (Is it red? I don’t know, I’m new here.)
“The Treemakers” (blurb below) was a project I began during National Novel Writing Month last November. I did, indeed, write the first 50K words of what I believed at the time would be something of a short novel. Being still a new novelist, this was my third novel, but I still had not worked with a professional editor. I was nearsighted in my vision for the future of TTM, thinking it was a quick little project that I could toss to the masses and maybe, snag a few readers for when I put the REAL work out there.
“The Treemakers” had other plans.
After I decided to go Indie (link opens new window), I also decided it was time to get professional feedback on my work.
BEST. DECISION. EVER.
I had just had TTM read by a couple of trusted beta readers, who had great things to say about it, but also pointed out a few of the story’s weak spots. I went back to work and fleshed the entire story, stretched it out and tacked on another 53K words. I thought the project was close to being “perfect” when I sent it over to my editor, Kimberly Grenfell. Um, yeah. Not so much. What I received back from her was 33 pages of content notes.
What happened when I read those content notes was a reverse-alchemy of sorts. The solid gold badass status I had dubbed upon my 3 novel-writing, NaNoWriMo-winning self, became a cackling peanut gallery. Those questions opened a sort of Pandora’s Box, a snowball effect of doubts, fears, and inadequacies dumped upon me like a mighty, putrid ice bucket challenge…
Dramatic, yes. But also, true.
I spent precisely two days regretting the day I picked up a pen when I was 14 and spewed out my first, four page teen-angst poem.
I pulled myself up by my uncle Allen’s rainbow suspenders… I realized, like he, and so many others have said to me in my life–that I am a storyteller. I was put on this earth to do so, and though I might do it kicking and hurling wet noodles, I shall do this thang, I shall do what I need to do to move forward; I shall do to my stories what they need to thrive and grow wings and fly into the world, as beautifully-winged creatures who can withstand the certain storms of darkness and whirling pools of light ahead.
I didn’t really intend to rewrite the entire 103K word novel, it just happened. The truth is, even when I sat down to tackle my editor’s content notes, there was that little voice telling me things I ignored as I smothered it with a mental pillow. As I fought to rework my manuscript, things began changing. Big things. So many things were changing in fact, that I finally just threw up my hands and never looked at the old manuscript again. I was at 13K words. I had a whole novel ahead of me, and though the bones of the story were very similar, but an ounce of the same flesh remained from the old version to the new. I was terrified. For a moment, I was unsure if I could do it. But do it, I did. I conquered that mountain and buried my flagpole deep in it, claiming it for myself and all writers who have ever accomplished similarly amazing feats, or wanted to, or needed to, but were too afraid. I did it. And boy, did it feel great.
Following are some things I learned during this past year while working on “The Treemakers.”
#12. Characters and worlds are like real life, in the sense that it takes a while to get to know them.
How well do you know a real life person in three months? Do you know them better in six months? How much better do you know them in one year? The same with places. I mean, I’ve lived in Dallas, Texas most of my life and still get lost. (True story) But what if I took a trip to an alternate dimension of time and space to a third-world alien country where up is down and left is right and so on… you know, like opposite world or something. In many ways, this is what my imaginative worlds are like. When I first started writing TTM, their world of Bygonne was a foggy, bare bones rendition of what it is now. It took me writing the story three times to really, I mean really flesh out my world and characters. Not until the third time (and months later) did I finally know my characters as if they were real live persons, and their world as if I lived there myself.
#11. Trusted, honest beta readers are absolutely necessary for the success of the beginning novelist.
It can be scary, handing over your work for critique. In fact, it’s a miracle Logan Keys and I are still friends. Logan and I met on Facebook and before we really knew each other well, we were swapping stories. From that first encounter, where we asserted our mutual knowingnesses of the other’s weak spots and thus shared, I discovered something about myself: I am a total masochist when it comes to writing. I fear the painful results of sharing my work for critique, but there is nothing more fulfilling than feeling the burn of truth when my eyes are opened to my own weaknesses, and facing them with honesty and humility, tenacity and courage, to become a better writer, telling a better story.
#10. A brilliant, encouraging, honest, open-minded, and optimistic editor is absolutely necessary for most writers to reach their full potential.
I say most because I’m sure there are writers out there who would beg to differ. Maybe you need a drill sergeant who sprays you with lemon juice for every comma splice…. But as for me, and many others, we’re squirrely little rascals who have spent too much time doubting our abilities. The slightest bit of harshness or unnecessary pessimism or negativity in regards to our work may send us packing to some far off land where we take up knitting and drinking and sobbing into the wee dreary hours of dawn. As with many people, it takes someone with a positive, encouraging attitude, the know-how, and the optimism to help us cultivate our inner talents and bring them to their highest yeilding states of fruition.
#9. You don’t need an agent or a publisher to be a happy writer.
For the longest time I really did think I had to be an agented, NY-published writer to be happy. With this belief, I was self-fulfilling my own prophecy. Once I realized I didn’t need these things and really began to focus on why I write, and started doing it for the right reasons, magically things began to fall into place for me. See #8 below:
#8. When you follow the light, it multiplies.
When you discover that spark in the dark, with it you can build a massive fire, burning up dark worlds and naysaying universes in an instant. All it takes is a spark. Follow that, and things in your life begin to rearrange themselves to bring more light. Sure, this is my personal hypothesis, but it has also been proven in my life in a trillion ways. If you missed it and you want to know more about the darkness I’ve come from, check out a bit of my story >HERE<.
#7. You can be a single parent and write a novel.
It’s true, anything we are really passionate about in life, we make time for. I once made up tons of excuses for why I didn’t have time to write, but one day I finally said enough is enough. I quit squirting lemon juice in my own eyes and made a commitment to myself to write every day. Just a year later I was wrangling NaNoWriMo by the horns and “won” with my first draft of “The Treemakers.” Now, with a little help from a good set of headphones, some awesome, mostly-wordless music, a fierce ambition, and stern rules with my children about “mommy’s writing time,” I have been known to write between 1K-4K words a day. It can be done. All we need is a bit of gumption.
#6. I queried for agents too soon.
Not that it makes much difference to me now, but I know there are many of you who still aim to give it a go with traditional publishing. This one’s for you guys. Now I see where I was blind when I queried agents for my first and second novels. Not only was my writing not the best because I wasn’t yet working with an editor, but also, my worlds and characters were way underdeveloped. Not to mention, my query letters and synopses totally sucked dirt balls. I get all teary-eyed and sneezy when I look back over them now.
#5. I realized I had no idea how strong I really was.
I love this journey so much. Before I began it, I was a very needy soul who lacked confidence in my work. I was scared of him and her and they and didn’t show my work to many people. I’ve only been blogging for a year, because I believed I wasn’t good enough for any of this. I couldn’t be successful. No one would want to read my words. I could dream of being a published writer all day but that wouldn’t make me a published writer. Those were my debilitating and belittling beliefs. They totally held me back in the cesspool of fear for the longest time. But then, things changed. Once I started conquering my fears within the writing itself–taking criticism/critique, hiring a professional, rewriting–I changed. I realized I didn’t need anyone to wave a magic publishing wand over my head and tell me I was “good enough.” I could do it myself. Well, mostly… (See #4 below)
#4. It takes a village.
Just because I’m an “Indie” author, doesn’t mean I’m solo. I do need others to help my stories come to life and be amazing. Beta readers, trusted friends, supporting family members, encouragers, EDITORS, and (for me) children to remind me that there is so much wonder and magic in life when I dive deep into my imagination. Most importantly though, it takes believers. People who believe in you and your work are so important.
#3. Too many cooks in the kitchen can spoil the soup. Or spill it in our nether-regions and scald and/or singe our unmentionables. Not to mention, no more soup.
There is such a thing as too much outside input. There comes a time–when 2,000 of your closest friends on Facebook are writing this or that or telling you to write this or that–that you have to press the “mute” button and do your own thing. Don’t chase trends or do what they do, if it means straying from your own lighted path. In “The Treemakers,” I touch on some pretty taboo subjects. I’ve had to have some heart-to-hearts with my characters and make sure it’s really what they wanted. The answer was yes. I wrote the story the way it would’ve really happened, I truly believe that. And if I were to change it because so-and-so say it might offend a few narrow-minded individuals, then I would not have a true, authentic story to offer to the world. We must write the story that is in us to tell, regardless of those pesky naysayers who don’t like much anyway.
#2. Growing Up in Public SUCKS.
I’ve erased countless blog posts because I read back over them and sputter the contents of my cereal bowl onto my computer screen. “Ugh, did I really write that crap?” Sometimes, it’s so overwhelming learning all of the things that go along with being an Indie author. Social media. OY. All of those things those “other authors” do that piss me off on Facebook? I think I’m guilty of every single one of them. Almost. You’ll never catch me in a half-naked yoga pose, but, you know… all the rest. We learn as we go. It sucks that we have to be ignorant of certain things in the process, but that’s just the way it is in this golden age of Everything Online & Social Media. My advice though: Never get on social media angry or drunk. That will save you so much embarrassment.
#1. I can prove the naysayers wrong–just because I am self-published, doesn’t mean I’m throwing a fat turd in the air and calling it a book.
I just wrote an amazing book. I can say that with confidence. I put the work into it and it will be great. There will be people who hate it, most definitely, but the fact is, there will be a ton more people who don’t. And that makes me happy. 😀
Sooo, that’s it for now! I have a slew of amazing announcements coming up, including my cover reveal, and the unveiling of my fansite. I’ve yet to figure out how to do an actual mailing list signup in WordPress (growing up in public!), but for now, take a look at the blurb for “The Treemakers” below, and if you’d like to be added to my launch list for when it releases, you may email me at rozelle[dot]treemakers[at]gmail[dot]com. Feel free to email me for any other reason as well; just to say hi, ask a question, or vent about whatever… just promise you’ll be nice because I’m sensitive. 😉
“The Treemakers” (Edgy YA Dystopian/SciFi)
Doomed to a life of building mechanical trees for the dying world of Bygonne, sixteen year-old Joy Montgomery remains the only one left to care for over thirty orphaned children enslaved by the Superiors in the Tree Factory.
But the iron bonds of friendship and family, the discovery of magic in the dark, and love amidst devastation, soon fuel her search for a way out. Aided by an unlikely ally who harbors a dangerous secret, Joy and the Treemakers embark on a quest for freedom, and for the truth about the existence of a forbidden paradise.
Coming in November! (Release date/cover reveal TBA)
Until next time, writerly souls,
Write on! ❤